Oooohh!! Another nifty Thai fantasy film…… just what the doctor ordered for this lil’ Catgirl. I’ve been going into withdrawals without getting to see any new Thai stuff for the last month or so. This one has actually been out for quite a while now…. but without subtitles naturally….. (Boooo!! Hisss!!) A proper Fansub for this one finally became available, and as I’ve been wanting to see it sooo, sooo badly, I ordered it up direct from Thailand just last week….
The synopsis for it reads as follows: “In the 1600’s. Queen Raja Heejau of Langkasuka must defend her country against numerous foes when a rogue prince conspires with a coalition of vicious pirates to incite a rebellion and plunder the kingdom. A famous Dutch Cannon maker tries to aid the kingdom by constructing the “Mother of All Cannons” to be used to defend the kingdom against it’s enemies. Unfortunately the pirates learn of the cannon and try to seize the ship delivering it.
The raid fails, and the ship, along with its crew and weapons sink into a deep ocean abyss after an titanic explosion. This fateful incident occurs on the very same day as the birth of “Panee”, born with the amazing gift that enables him to communicate with all the creatures of the sea.
In the years to come and after much training Panee’s uncanny ability would be used to help the Queen and her sisters defeat the merciless pirates that threaten their shores. Panee will call upon whales, giant rays, and dolphins to aide him in the historic sea battle for the fate of the kingdom of Langkasuka.”
Sounds good!! Neko-chan just loves the whole sweeping epic romance angle and the promise of some crazy kickboxing… and if you do too, then I just know you are gonna want to “Read On” for more about “Queens of Langkasuka”!
Every once in a while, studios in Thailand get the urge to try and do a film to elevate themselves to the level of real players in the Asian film market. This one is certainly a big budget film for Thailand… that much is evident right from the get go. It’s awash with gorgeous costumes, sets, and a great sense of the grandeur of old Siam…. mix in some nicely done digital effects and good solid acting and we’re talking some good cinema here. I’ve read that it originally ran some 133 minutes in length, but the version released eventually to theaters and on the Thai DVD is some 114 minutes. Having seen this one… Neko can only scratch her lil’ noggin’ and wonder what the heck got cut by Sahamongkol Film .
They threw a heck of a lot of stuff in here…. We’ve got some kickboxing, evil assassins, mystic Thai Sea Magic/ Martial Art, romance, and pirates…. lots and lots of pirates. At times it was a little confusing, but ignoring all the gorgeous visuals and paying a little attention let me absorb it all pretty nicely.
The title is a bit missleading though…. There is really only one Queen to be seen throughout most of the movie…. Queen Heejau… the rest of the women are actually the “Princesses of Langkasuka”, but hey…. Neko can deal with that. Anyway… our hero for the film, Panee, is played by Ananda Everingham. He’s born with some sort of mystical synergy with the sea…. able to understand the fish and read the ocean and the weather like an open book. Seems there’s this Mystical art called Dolum that deals with stuff like that…. you get all sorts of powers that basically make you into the Thai version of Aquaman crossed with Tony Jaa….. but there’s a downside. (Isn’t there always a downside? Sigh….) Yep… just like “the Force”, it seems there’s a Good side to Dolum and an Evil side….. and naturally the wicked Pirate King has gotten himself all filled up with evil Dolum power, the better to weld together the disparate pirate forces into a group to actually threaten the kingdom. Got it so far? Good…
Well… it would seem plausible that the answer to everybody’s problem would be if the Hermit Master of Dolum would take Panee and train him in the ways of Good Dolum so he can whup some pirate butt and save everybody… right? Problem is.. he won’t do it. Seems he’s worried Panee has the taint of darkness in his soul… How he knows that isn’t really clear, but it’s reason enough to deny young Panee’s early training. That’s ok, he’s a happy boy who likes hanging out with the slightly crazy Chinese apprentice of the Dutch cannon smith Lim Kium (played by Jakkrit Phanichphatikram) who survived his master’s death and now lives a peaceful life with the Sea Gypsies. That, and Panee’s got himself a childhood sweetheart… a pretty girl who just absolutely adores him, and who you just know isn’t going to make it to the end of the film…. these sorts of epics are just like that after all.
Meanwhile…. (yep, our movie jumps back and forth quite a bit from the Palace to Panee…Neko’s advice is to just roll with it…) the Queen is receiving the ambassadors of all the nearby Kingdoms, some of which are potential allies, and others just there hovering like vultures waiting to swoop in on her and Langkasuka when she shows the least bit of weakness. In the midst of this, the pirates sneak in disguised as diplomats and try this cool ninja/ kickboxing/ assassination attempt that gets foiled by the youngest of the Palace guards, Jarang (played by Chupong “Diaw” Chungprung from “Dynamite Warrior”) in what has to be one of the coolest fight scenes in the movie. There’s swordplay, wire work and enough sneaky ninja weapons to please any action junkie. Jarang stops the pirates, but gets a face full of poisoned needles meant for Queen Heejau before killing the deadly female assassin/ lover of the Pirate King Black Raven (played by Winai Kraibutr from “Nang Nak”) and forcing them to escape. He ends up wearing this “Phantom of the Opera” style mask for the rest of the movie and fills the roll of secondary hero nicely. I kind of thought he and Princess Biru (played by Jacqueline Apithananon) would end up together, (and maybe that was a subplot that got left on the cutting room floor) but it doesn’t happen… he’s just to noble a guy too risk such a thing.
Haven’t got enough people to keep track of yet? Well there’s always the token “Princess who wants to be a Tomboy” character in the form of Anju (played by Anna Ris), youngest of the Princesses who studies the bow and the sword and wants to be a warrior instead of a Princess. She’s upset that the Queen has betrothed her without her knowledge to Prince Pahung (played by Jesdaporn Pholdee), to link their kingdoms and ensure his army and support are with them in the coming struggle. When the chance to go with Jarang and Lim Kium’s sister in search of him and gain his expertise comes up she’s all over it…..
But…. the pirates get there first. Seems a dastardly spy at the Royal Court is giving them every move the Queen makes, and they raid the Sea Gypsies, killing everybody but Lim Kium and Panee who were off fighting the pirates at sea. Panee’s sweetheart gets raped and killed… and he sort of loses it. Big time. Boy, are those pirates in for a serious ass kicking now….. but only after he and Princess Anju get saved from the Pirates by Master White Ray and taken away to his island retreat for some well needed R&R.
Here we go into the prerequisite Training montage…. and of course Princess Anju falls for Panee (He’s just sooo brooding and dreamy and everything a Princess could want in a Hero…)…. and we get all the back story about the Art of Dolum, along with an introduction to a mysterious evil prisoner on the island (Yep… Still more characters..)…. and then there’s Anju’s fiancé Prince Pahung to consider…. But Neko isn’t gonna spoil all that for you. Nope, you are gonna want to find out some secrets for yourself.
Let’s just say that all this stuff builds to the “Big Climatic Battle” of Good vs. Evil… with a giant pirate war fleet, treacherous rebel spies, lots more swordfighting and kickboxing goodness, the return of the honkin’ big ol’ Dutch cannon, a squadron of hand gliders, and our hero Aquaman, (errr… ahh I mean Panee), and his army of sea creatures. Yep… it’s a big ending alright….
All in all this one more than lives up to most of the hype that preceded it. Your Favorite Catgirl Princess liked it a lot and my sweet Carolyn even enjoyed watching this one…. (although she needed me to fill in some of the blanks for her at times)…. My only quibble was with the somewhat choppy editing that made for a somewhat confusing jumble at times. I’ve been told that this one was originally conceived as a two part film, and while I’m rarely a fan of such splits… here, that just might have been the way to go. There was just too much story to shoehorn it all into a 2 hour package comfortably. It might have worked better in the original running time of 133 minutes as well…. hopefully we’ll get the chance to see that version sometime. (HINT!! HINT!!) Still, as epics go, this one fits the bill nicely and shows what the Thai Film industry can do when it really wants to think big.
So, in conclusion, Neko-chan gives “Queens of Langkasuka” a well deserved 4 “Meows” out of 5 for being just the sort of well crafted fantasy costume epic I like…. with good acting, excellent action sequences, nicely integrated special effects, and everything needed to make for a fine movie watching experience. More films of this caliber certainly couldn’t hurt the Thai Film Industry’s reputation at all. (But english subtitles on the DVD would have been nice…. I just gotta nag about those….) However… the Fansubs that are now available out there on the Web are excellent… so don’t let this one slip by, you’ll be sorry.
There’s a nifty Trailer….(isn’t there always…) and here it is!!